Licensed practical nurses, also known as licensed vocational nurses in some states, provide patient care under the supervision and instruction of both registered nurses and physicians. LPNs work in hospitals, nursing facilities, home health agencies and private physician offices. Average pay for an LPN is just over $40,000 annually. This field is expected to experience a 20 percent growth rate through 2020. LPNs must complete an accreditation program in the state they wish to serve in order to become licensed. The time it takes to get an LPN certification varies by state and program type. If desired, an LPN can then advance into a degree program to become a registered nurse.
The amount of time it takes to get an LPN certification depends on whether or not you have graduated from high school. To enter into an LPN program, a student must first earn a high school diploma or receive a high school equivalency diploma such as a GED. Once this has been accomplished, any advance screenings required by the LPN school you wish to attend must be completed. For instance, prospective LPN students in Pennsylvania are required to undergo a criminal background check, receive CPR training, pass a physical examination and obtain clearance from the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry. An entrance exam is also part of the application process for the LPN program.
Students working a full-time job may opt to take an LPN certification program on a part-time basis. For example, Columbus State Community College offers a five-semester LPN program during weekday evenings and weekends. Students must earn 36 credits to receive certification, broken down into nursing courses, plus arts and sciences. Classes include patient care skills, human anatomy and pharmacology, as well as techniques for working with elderly and immobile patients. An 18-month program for part-time students is available at Princeton Information Technology Center in Pennsylvania.
LPN program lengths vary by state for full-time students. For instance, Oakland University in Michigan offers a practical nursing program that takes three semesters to complete on a full-time basis, plus nine semester hours of pre-requisite classes are required for admittance. The Princeton Information Technology Center in Pennsylvania offers a 12-month LPN program.
Pass LPN Exam
The final step in becoming a licensed practical nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, commonly referred to as the NCLEX-PN. This test demonstrates proficiency in entry-level nursing skills. How long it takes to complete this process depends on the length of time you need to prepare for the test and pass the exam. A testing fee of $200 is required. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has a test plan available online to help students prepare. The test plan includes the different subject areas covered on the test and the percentage of questions that will be asked about each topic. Once this exam has been passed, the LPN can obtain a state license and enter the nursing field.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: Summary
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse
- NCSBN: National Council of State Boards of Nursing: Before The Exam
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: Job Outlook
- Oakland University: Practical Nursing Program (LPN Certification)
Kelli Peacock Dunn has been a news editor and photographer since 1998, working at a weekly newspaper in Northwest Florida. Her articles have also appeared in "Panama City Living" magazine and "The Lookout."